World's Smallest PC? Part 2 - InformationWeek

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IoT
IoT
Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
1/9/2008
05:40 PM
David  DeJean
David DeJean
Commentary
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World's Smallest PC? Part 2

Chinese company Tsinghua Tongfang, maker of the LimePC line, is showing a brand-new tiny computer at the Consumer Electronics Show -- not as small as the MTube project's design, but a whole lot closer to being a real product -- and a really interesting one, at that.

Chinese company Tsinghua Tongfang, maker of the LimePC line, is showing a brand-new tiny computer at the Consumer Electronics Show -- not as small as the MTube project's design, but a whole lot closer to being a real product -- and a really interesting one, at that.The new model, called the ThinPC, is even smaller that current tiny PCs from companies like AOpen and enano. The ThinPC measures about 6 by 4 by 1-1/3 inches, weighs less than a pound, and if it weren't for the number of cables connected to the back, you might mistake it for an external hard drive.




The ThinPC's glossy black case measures about 6 by 4 by 1-1/3 inches. It's powered by a new Freescale "motherboard-on-a-chip."
Click to Enlarge

The ThinPC is powered by a new product from Freescale, the MPC5121e mobileGT processor. This "motherboard-on-a-chip" device squeezes graphics and audio, PCI, Ethernet, SATA, and USB controllers into a triple-core chip design -- a Power Architecture processor core, a 3-D graphics processor core, and a CD-quality audio processor core.

This processing hardware drives five ports on the back of the case: power, 15-pin VGA, 10/100 Ethernet, two USB 2.0 connectors, and a 3.5-mm audio-out jack. (There's no microphone jack.) The computer will be available with hard drives ranging from 30 Gbytes to 100 Gbytes, and comes with internal Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support.




The ThinPC's connectors: power, 15-pin VGA, 10/100 Ethernet, two USB 2.0 connectors, and a 3.5-mm audio-out jack. The USB device in the photograph is a Bluetooth dongle -- the units on view at CES were prototypes, and the Bluetooth keyboard/mouse support wasn't working yet.
Click to Enlarge

The ThinPC will run a customized Linux environment, said Ryan Quinn, who is developing it. (Quinn previously was the project manager for the SymphonyOS Linux distro.) The user interface will use Gekko rendering and include a local server that will work something like Google Gears, he said.

The ThinPC product has come together very quickly, Quinn said as he stood by the half-dozen prototypes on display. "Three months ago, this was just a design. Last week we were still assembling them. There's a USB Bluetooth dongle in the back because we couldn't get the internal Bluetooth support working in time for the show." He expects the final details to come together equally quickly -- the ThinPC is scheduled to ship in March at a price of about $300.

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